Summit County Sheriff defends picture of team with Trump

AKRON, Ohio - Summit County Sheriff Steve Barry says when Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump held a rally at the University of Akron in August, his office was among the agencies helping to provide security as part of the candidate's detail.

"Because the candidate was speaking at the University of Akron that night, the University of Akron police were involved, the Akron Police Department, the Ohio State Patrol for the motorcade as well as the Summit County Sheriff's office," said Barry.

Barry says during the visit, he was invited to have a photo taken with Trump, but asked instead if the picture could be taken with all of the deputies who were helping that day.

The sheriff says it is not at all unusual for candidates and VIPs to take photos with dignitaries, but it is rare that they stop to take a picture with everyone involved in a protective detail.

"This to my knowledge is the first one in at least 40 years, if there ever was one before that, where the candidate or the VIP took their picture with the entire team and I was very proud of that, that my guys got that opportunity," said Barry.

The photo was first posted to the Summit County Sheriff's Office Facebook page soon after it was taken where it was 'liked' by hundreds of people. More than 20 people also commented on the photo and virtually all of the comments were positive.

Barry says the response to the photo on Facebook was so positive that his department chose to use it as the cover photo of a monthly publication called the 'Shield.'

Akron NAACP President Judi Hill says soon after the publication was distributed in October, she started getting calls from people concerned about what they saw.

"I don't have a problem with people taking a picture, I really don't that's your prerogative. It's what you do with that picture and how you use it that bothers me," said Hill.

Hill says some of the people who have contacted her believe the photograph appears to be an endorsement of Trump, released just a month before the presidential election.

Since the Shield is a publication of the sheriff's office she does not believe taxpayers' dollars should be spent making a political statement.

"We all know the police department, the FOP nationally has endorsed Trump, the FOP in Cleveland supported Trump, the FOP in Akron did not take a position. They took pictures with him as well, but they didn't put it on their newsletter," said Hill.

Sheriff Barry says there is no endorsement intended or implied on his behalf.

"I'm the sitting Democratic sheriff in this county, and I support the Democratic party. This was nothing to do with politics," said Barry.

Barry says he is in the picture in uniform because he offered to work as a part of the detail himself to help with the cost.

Below the cover photograph is also a caption that reads "Trained for the task, Ready for the words."

Hill questions what that means, whether it implies that the deputies are waiting for instructions from Trump.

"The whole paramilitary look and feel of it bothered me in the sense of Donald Trump says he is for us,going back to stop and frisk and things that are so against where we have come from that is targete. We all know that was targeted towards a lot of minorities and a lot of individuals who could not defend themselves against the court system," said Hill.

"This was no political statement, there was no hidden agendas. This was a boss who was proud of the job his team had done and was finally able to get them some public credit," said Barry, explaining that when the photo was posted to Facebook it was accompanied by a clear, non-partisan message.

"Regardless of one's political point of view, party, whatever, we have an obligation legally, morally and ethically that is to protect the person who needs protection when they are in our county. We did our job, we accomplished the mission and I'm very proud of my guy."

Hill also believes that because all of the deputies in the photograph are white it could send a wrong message at a time when tensions between law enforcement and the black community are high.

"I see this as a way of really trying to tear things down,whether it is on purpose, whether there was an intent or not this is not summit county, not the summit county we want to portray," said Hill.

She believes the sheriff should have realized that the photograph could send a bad message before it was published, "And the fact that he sees nothing wrong with it is one of the reasons that I have a concern, the fact that you see nothing wrong with it," said Hill.

But Sheriff Barry believes he has nothing that he needs to apologize for and takes exception to the fact that Hill, who has his personal cell phone number and has spoken with him face to face on many previous occasions, did not call him before going public with her concerns.

He insists the photo was meant to do nothing other than to credit his swat team for a job they do without any fanfare on a daily basis and give them a rare memento.

"This was no political statement, there was no hidden agendas. This was a boss who was proud of the job his team had done and was finally able to get them some public credit," said Barry.